IN THE NEWS
Genocide Under Our Watch
Exclusive: Rwanda Revisited
Declassified U.N. Cables Reveal Turning Point in Rwanda Crisis of 1994
The Shroud Over Rwanda's Nightmare
Refusing to Call it Genocide: Documents Show Clinton Administration Ignored Mass Killings in Rwanda
Don't Assume that the Rwandan Genocide Couldn't Happen Today
Britain ignored genocide threat in Rwanda
"The Rwandan Genocide," Letter to the Editor, The New York Times
"The Rwandan Genocide," Letter to the Editor, The New York Times
Key Diplomat's Personal Notebook Sheds Light on Inner Workings of US Government Response to Genocide Unfolding in Rwanda in 1994
Inside the UN Security Council: April–July 1994
Rwanda: The Failure of the Arusha Peace Accords
Sitreps Detail Rwanda's Descent into Genocide 1994
The Rwandan Refugee Crisis: Before the Genocide
The Rwandan Crisis Seen Through the Eyes of France
Warnings of Catastrophe
The Rwanda Sitreps
The Rwanda "Genocide Fax": What We Know Now
The U.S. and the Genocide in Rwanda 1994: Evidence of Inaction
Washington, DC, April 16, 2015 – Newly declassified Clinton White House e-mails and notes detail a decisive U.S. role in the tragic pullout of United Nations peacekeepers during the first two weeks of the 1994 Rwandan genocide, according to documents and analysis posted today by the National Security Archive at George Washington University on Holocaust Remembrance Day (Yom HaShoah).
The documents show U.S. skepticism about United Nations peacekeeping operations as early as September 1993, as domestic political criticism of U.S. involvement, the specter of U.S. troops under UN "blue helmet" command, and budgetary constraints, led to a lengthy Clinton administration review and series of highly restrictive conditions for any future UN operation even before the Somalia "Black Hawk Down" disaster on October 3, 1993. On September 29, 1993, for example, senior National Security Council official Richard Clarke "intimated that Rwanda may be the case the NSC is looking for to prove the U.S. can say 'no' to a new peacekeeping operation."
The documents show the U.S. agreed to the Rwanda mission mainly because of a quid pro quo with France that would keep French troops engaged in the Somalia mission in exchange for U.S. support of the Rwandan mission; but even then, Defense Department officials had argued that the peacekeepers in Rwanda should be totally unarmed observers rather than combat-ready troops.
Only two days after the beginning of the genocide on April 7, 1994, when extremist Hutu militia massacred a group of Belgian peacekeepers guarding the prime minister and began slaughtering both Tutsis and those Hutus supporting a peace process, Clarke seized the opportunity to say "no" to the mission, arguing "We make a lot of noise about terminating UN forces that aren't working. Well, few could be as clearly not working. We should work with the Frecnh [sic] to gain a consensus to terminate the UN mission."
By April 15, the U.S. delegation at the UN dropped a "bombshell" on the Security Council's secret deliberations, arguing for total termination of the mission and pullout of the peacekeepers, only to find they did not have the votes given opposition from the Non-Aligned Movement and others. On April 21, the Security Council voted to reduce the force in Rwanda from over 2,000 troops down to 270, which U.S. ambassador Madeleine Albright in an earlier cable had all-too-accurately called a "skeletal staff."
Experts and former officials gathered at The Hague last year for a critical oral history conference reviewing the Rwanda tragedy agreed that the UN pullout decision was a turning point, a "green light" for genocide, a "disastrous decision [with] horrendous consequences," as the Nigerian UN envoy Ibrahim Gambari called it.
Figuring into the pullout decision were a multitude of breakdowns in the United Nations process, including contradictory signals from the often-absent UN secretary-general Boutros Boutros-Ghali, disagreements between the secretary-general and the UN peacekeeping staff headed by Kofi Annan, the dysfunctional relationship of the UN special representative in Rwanda (Jacques-Roger Booh-Booh) and the UN force commander on the ground (Gen. Romeo Dallaire), and the dramatic shift in the Belgian position from wanting to reinforce their troops (the best-equipped of Dallaire's force) on April 8, to lobbying for total pullout of all the force by April 15.
But the documents show the one constant throughout this debate was the U.S. position, driven by Clarke at the National Security Council, and the U.S. concern to limit UN missions only to monitoring peaces that could be kept, with stringent conditions on any U.S. involvement. This hard line seems to have been a key factor in the reversal of the Belgians, who wanted to expand the peacekeepers' mandate on April 8 both to "protect people who would be in danger such as remaining Rwandan politicians" and to evacuate foreigners, only to hear from their UN ambassador that day that this was impossible, in fact "Several western members of the Council are already questioning the utility, in the present circumstances, of maintaining UNAMIR."
Prior to release of the latest White House documents on Rwanda, the conventional narrative of events leading up to the withdrawal of UN peacekeepers had focused on the April 12 decision by the Belgian government to pull out its peacekeeping contingent. According to a seminal 2002 book, "A Problem from Hell," by Samantha Power, currently U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Secretary of State Warren Christopher "agreed to back Belgian requests for a full UN exit." In fact, the new documents make clear that the White House was already advocating a pullout of UNAMIR before the Belgian decision.
Previously published documents show that highest-level U.S. attention to Rwanda peaked on April 11 when President and Mrs. Clinton visited the State Department task force in charge of evacuating American citizens to congratulate them on finishing their job. That day, according to the diary of State Department official Prudence Bushnell, the "NSC requested IO to draft resolution to pull UNAMIR" meaning that Clarke had tasked the International Organizations bureau in State to push the pullout.
The documents show that White House officials kept asking about the safety of a single Rwandan human rights activist, Monique Mujawamariya, who had met President Clinton in December 1993. The only other high-level U.S. attention to the Rwandan disaster in the first month was a discussion added at the last minute to a planned April 29 Deputies Committee meeting, but taking up only 15 minutes. Hand-written notes by Clarke's deputy, Susan Rice, from subsequent interagency meetings on Rwanda throughout May show that the crucial early decision for pullout of most of the UN force left few policy options thereafter for any international actors, even as the scale of the genocide became clear.
The first indication in the new White House documents of any consideration other than terminating the UN mission did not come until April 19, when NSC staffer Eric Schwartz wrote Susan Rice and Don Steinberg that Human Rights Watch was pleading with him to oppose a quick pullout because the remaining peacekeepers were "protecting thousands (25,000?) Rwandans and if they pull out, the Rwandans will quickly become victims of genocide. Is this true? If so, shouldn't it be a major factor informing high-level decision-making on this issue? Has it been?"
But in the context of political restrictions on U.S. involvement in UN peacekeeping, and the post-Somalia mindset in Washington, the documents show that the protection of civilians was seen early on as an expansion of the mandate and thus to be avoided.
Long sought under the Freedom of Information Act by the National Security Archive and other genocide researchers including current U.S. Ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, the new documents include dozens of e-mails between National Security Council officials Richard Clarke, Don Steinberg, Susan Rice, and Eric Schwartz, among others, hand-written notes by Rice from meetings on Rwanda, options papers and cables produced by the State and Defense Departments, and responses by national security adviser Tony Lake to staff queries.
Rice subsequently told author Samantha Power, now the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, for her article in The Atlantic in September 2001 titled "Bystanders to Genocide": "There was such a huge disconnect between the logic of each of the decisions we took along the way during the genocide and the moral consequences of the decisions taken collectively. I swore to myself that if I ever faced such a crisis again, I would come down on the side of dramatic action, going down in flames if that was required." In the Obama administration, Rice and Power helped create the new Atrocities Prevention Board and argued in favor of intervention in Libya, a discussion in which "the ghosts of 800,000 Tutsis were in that room," according to news accounts.
White House and Clinton Presidential Library reviewers cleared most of the Rwanda documents to be released in full, but State Department reviewers arbitrarily censored some of the key passages on ostensible "foreign government information" grounds. For example, the cable from the U.S. UN mission to the State Department on April 15 titled "US drops bombshell on Security Council" has both its summary and the key body paragraph deleted as still classified, even though the governments of Great Britain, New Zealand, and the Czech Republic have all released their Security Council ambassadors' accounts of the "bombshell" - the U.S. call for total pullout.
"The State Department is covering up its embarrassment and shame, and damaging our national security, with these flagrant deletions," said Tom Blanton, director of the National Security Archive.
The documents are part of a long-term joint project between the Archive and the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum's Simon-Skjodt Center for the Prevention of Genocide, to examine the international community's response and lack thereof to genocides including Rwanda, Srebrenica, and Darfur. Directed by the Center's senior advisor Michael Dobbs together with the Archive's documentation specialist Emily Willard, the project has already opened more than 20,000 documents on Rwanda from dozens of sources and countries, and organized the historic "critical oral history" conference on Rwanda hosted by The Hague Institute for Global Justice in June 2014.
Document 1 [NEW]
In this White House situation room memo, Madeleine Albright discusses the US position toward the French push for a UNSC Chapter 6 PKO in Rwanda, referencing Clinton's speech at the UNGA outlining criteria for US support of PKOs and timing of deliberations. The memo makes the clear linkage between supporting the French on Rwanda in order to keep French troops in Somalia.
Albright notes that "if we take the step of vetoing the French draft resolution, thereby forcing the French to maintain their battalion in Kigali, we can almost certainly write off the possibility of French troops remaining in Somalia."
Document 2 [NEW]
This cable from the U.S. Secretary of State to the United States Mission to the UN (USUN) reports on the proposed Rwanda peacekeeping mission in a section of the cable titled, "The NSC is Downbeat on a Rwanda Operation," it states:
This detailed intelligence assessment reports that conditions in Rwanda favor an "easily executed" peacekeeping operation (PKO); if properly executed, UN PKO has a high chance of success while a failure to provide a Rwandan PKO will lead to "regional instability adverse to US interests." The assessment continues that the proposed UN PKO is "inexpensive and uncomplicated, unlike other missions in Africa, including Somalia," while mentioning the "sometimes explosive" political situation.
Document 4 [NEW]
In a memo from Richard Clarke and Susan Rice to Tony Lake, they propose a draft letter to General Quesnot, an advisor to French President Mitterrand. The memo accompanying the draft letter explains that even though UNAMIR has chance of success, the Security Council will be reluctant to agree since they don't want to say yes to every operation. The memo writes in underlined and bolded text that that "US troops will not participate."
The draft letter to General Quesnot also clearly indicates the linkage between the US supporting France's position on Rwanda, and keeping French troops in Somalia, "I understand that deployment of a UN force will permit France to withdraw its forces from Rwanda. I hope you can also tell the UN that the creation of a UN force in Rwanda can permit French forces to remain in Somalia beyond the end of the year."
Document 5 [NEW]
Susan Rice writes of a successful compromise between the Department of State and the Defense Department in which "JCS walked back from a cliff" regarding details about the UN peacekeeping mission for Rwanda (UNAMIR) "agreeing to drop their insistence on unarmed observers rather than actual soldiers."
Document 6 [NEW]
This report from the National Photographic Interpretation Center reports that the runway at the Kigali airport is blocked, and that there are no roadblocks near the US Embassy in Kigali. This report indicates that the US had reconnaissance surveillance over Rwanda on the first day of the genocide.
In this cable Belgian Ambassador to the UN, Paul Noterdaeme, expressed concern that UNAMIR was doing very little to protect Belgian civilians in Kigali. This cable makes clear that other UNSC members are not going to accept transformation of mandate from Chapter VI to Chapter VII. He writes:
A "NIACT" ("night action requested") cable from the US embassy in Brussels to the Secretary of State in Washington reports on the Belgian Foreign Minister's call to the embassy to say that "Claes had spoken to UNSYG Butros-Ghali morning April 8 to urge that UN consider exchanging/extending mandate of UNAMIR: A) to protect people who should be in danger as remaining Rwandan politicians; and B) to assist foreign residents who need protection or wish to leave Rwanda in an evacuation."
Document 9 [NEW]
In a National Security Council (NSC) email from April 9 1994, Richard Clarke writes to Donald Steinberg and several other NSC officials about working to coordinate with the French to get American citizens out of Rwanda, and to terminate UNAMIR. He writes in a section titled "Terminating the UN Force":
Deputy Secretary of State for African Affairs Prudence Bushnell wrote in her personal notebook "NSC requested IO to draft resolution to pull UNAMIR."
Document 11 [NEW]
An intelligence report from a US government agency states that:
Document 12 [NEW]
In an April 11, 1994 email from Richard Clarke to Donald Steinberg and others, he writes of the UN's plan to pull the UN peacekeeping force out, and that the UN may ask for US support in airlifting them out. Clarke asks for guidance on how to respond to such a UN request.
Document 13 [NEW]
Tony Lake responds (via Mary Emery) to Richard Clarke's email "Rwanda: Decision May Be Required" on how to respond to the UN's request with the following: "Inclined to help. But decision should go to the Principals."
Madeleine Albright writes that it appears that "relative calm has descended on Kigali" and it might be an opportunity to evacuate UNAMIR forces. She continues, "It is worth considering taking the lead in the Security Council to authorize the evacuation of the bulk of UNAMIR, while leaving behind a skeletal staff."
Document 15 [NEW]
MacArthur DeShazer writes to Tony Lake updating him on the unsuccessful attempts to "extract" seven American journalists from the Milles Collines hotel. Additionally, DeShazer reports on the future of UNAMIR:
Document 16 [NEW]
In this State Department cable, reviewers redacted the "bombshell" that the US mission to the UN dropped on the Security Council-calling for the full withdrawal of UNAMIR troops. However, the US's decision to call for the withdrawal of UNAMIR troops was previously released by several other governments last year in response to National Security Archive Freedom of Information requests and published on the Archive's website and in the critical oral history conference briefing book, "International Decision-Making in the Age of Genocide: Rwanda 1990-1994," in June 2014.
New Zealand Ambassador to the UN, Colin Keating reported the "bombshell" in his April 15 1994 cable back to Wellington; Czech Ambassador to the UN, Karel Kovanda reported the information in his April 16 1994 cable; as did Kofi Annan in his cable to the UN Secretary General Boutros-Ghali on April 15; and David Hannay, the UK's representative on the Security Council in a report back to London (see below).
In a cable from David Hannay, the UK's representative on the Security Council, he reports on Security Council meetings about the fate of UNAMIR:
Later, the Hannay describes a meeting after the discussions:
Document 18 [NEW]
National Security Council staffer Eric Schwartz writes to Susan Rice and Donald Steinberg on April 19th saying that "Human Rights Watch seemed to indicate that UNAMIR is protecting thousands (25,000?) Rwandans and if they pull out, the Rwandans will quickly become victims of genocide." He then asks in the email, "Is this true? If so, shouldn't it be a major factor informing high-level decision-making on this issue? Has it been?"
Document 19 [NEW]
This very detailed Department of State options paper makes it clear that the United States will not support strengthening UNAMIR on the basis of Presidential Decision Directive 25 (PDD-25).
Document 20 [NEW]
This memo from Donald Steinberg relays talking points on Rwanda for President Clinton, saying Lake needs to approve language concerning Rwanda. Steinberg says: "I think it would do the President well to stand up himself and say that genocide has occurred in Rwanda. Period. He is in the unique position to break through the goobledy-gook that the rest of us are required to say. If he does it, it will make it seem like he himself is frustrated over the bureaucracy's inability to call a spade a spade — that would be a good thing..." Steinberg goes on to note the talking points, one of which crucially is: "We have every reason to believe that [acts of genocide have] [genocide has] occurred in Rwanda, as defined under the 1948 convention." If asked about obligations, Steinberg notes, "The Genocide Convention does not impose a responsibility on the part of any government to take any specific action."
1994 Rwanda Pullout Driven by Clinton White House, U.N. Equivocation
White House Clears E-Mail Release and Susan Rice Hand-written Notes
Newly Declassified E-Mails Detail U.S. Role at Genocide Turning Point
Political Restrictions on Peacekeeping Missions Were Key to U.S. Thinking in 1994, Not Protection of Civilians or Prevention of Genocide
State Department Attempts to Cover Up Well-Known U.S. "Bombshell" - Excises Key Parts of Cable Already Released in Substance by Other Governments
Documents Show Minimal High-Level U.S. Attention to Rwanda Genocide in April 1994; Ended with Evacuation of U.S. Citizens April 11, Notwithstanding Last-Minute Add-On to Deputies' Meeting of April 29
National Security Archive Electronic Briefing Book No. 511
April 16, 2015